Google, Adobe Flash, and H.264 video

On signing into Google Docs today I saw the following:

image

I clicked Learn more and was directed to this article. The files you can upload and play:

  • WebM files (Vp8 video codec and Vorbis Audio codec)
  • .MPEG4, 3GPP and MOV files – (h264 and mpeg4 video codecs and AAC audio codec)
  • .AVI (many cameras use this format – typically the video codec is MJPEG and audio is PCM)
  • .MPEGPS (MPEG2 video codec and MP2 audio)
  • .WMV
  • .FLV (Adobe – FLV1 video codec, MP3 audio)

And how do you play a video?

Simply click a video file that you’ve uploaded to your Documents List and the video opens in a new page that includes a video player. You will need to have Flash installed for the video player to work.

At the same time, Google says it is removing H.264 support from its Chrome browser:

Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.

How do we make sense of this? The implication is that Google is not in fact bothered about H.264, but rather wants to promote Flash for video instead of the HTML 5 <video> element. That is a problem for Apple iOS users who cannot run Flash, and puzzling insofar as you would expect Google to be promoting rather than discouraging HTML 5 adoption.

Possibly the real target is Apple. Flash has become a key selling point for non-Apple mobile devices. By making more use of Flash, Google can make the web more annoying for iOS users and thereby promote Android.

As John Gruber observes, Google has some questions to answer.

Update: Google’s Mike Jazayeri has posted some more background on the decision here.

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Related posts:

  1. Google flexes its Chrome browser muscles, removes support for H.264 video – but what about Adobe Flash?
  2. Google buys On2, plans to integrate video into web platform
  3. Web video ascendant as Flash goes mobile
  4. BBC standardizing on Flash for web video
  5. Flash gets hardware-accelerated H.264 video